Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

June 13, 2005 The Grand Tetons.

David and I left Thursday morning for the Grand Tetons, excited to finally be out of Boulder and on the road. We were a two-car parade through Colorado and Wyoming, me in Matilda and him in his new Passat. He hadnít taken any road trips in the Passat before, and I hadnít traveled with anyone before. He was also pretty much new to camping, national parks, wild animals, sleeping outdoors in the cold, and even the mildest forms of roughing it.

Day one we only went as far as Laramie, which we had thought was a lot farther from Boulder than it turned out to be. No matter. We set up camp in a national forest high above the town and drove in for dinner, followed by coffee-with-wifi at a place Iíd visited the last time I was there, and an amazing sunset over the railroad tracks. Some people head into towns for gift shops or museums; we were after coffee and internet access. We returned there in the morning for breakfast and a last shot at our email before heading to Jackson Hole and the Tetons.

David was amazed by the campground Ė Iím not sure heíd ever been in a national forest before. It was a quiet place, up on top of mountain, under a thick cover of pine trees. It was still pretty cold at night, and there werenít many other campers there. When we returned from dinner in Laramie it was quiet and dark, the forest blocking the stars and the lights from campfires and RVs long-since extinguished. In the morning we talked to the man at the site next to ours, a single retiree with a thick white beard, driving a car and pulling a teardrop trailer. He in turn was talking to the couple next to him, who had come from Yellowstone and warned us that it was snowing there when they left.

We got to the Tetons on a sunny Saturday morning, and set out to hike around Jenny Lake. I wasnít used to the altitude and had a cold, both great excuses for getting really winded really fast. Neither of us was much used to hiking. But we had a good time, chattering endlessly as we rounded the lake and gaped at the mountain views. Near the home stretch, someone coming the other way told us to take a detour at the next turn-off, there was a moose up there just hanging out. A few minutes later someone else told us the same thing. Dutifully we turned off and hiked up a steep hill, to where the presence of yet another group of people, cameras in hand, alerted us to the presence of a massive bull moose resting in the forest shade.

The next day was cold and rainy. Tired from our exertions Saturday, we didnít do much of anything. The Colter Bay Lodge sold the Sunday New York Times, so David sat by the fire reading it, while I went for a short walk and took a few photos. In the evening we stayed inside Matilda finishing off the crossword puzzle, in no rush to go out into the nasty weather.

Traveling with someone else is definitely different. I canít remember the last time I spent so much time talking! It was delightful, and also made me worry that I wasnít being true to myself. For the first few days I didnít talk to strangers the way I usually do, and I didn't pull into the shoulder on the highway when struck with a scene worth photographing. On my own, I chatter with all kinds of people, from store clerks to gas station attendants to fellow campers. I donít have to think about changing my plans Ė all the decisions are juggled in my head, with no need to consult about what weíre doing next or whether to drop one scheme in favor of another that might unexpectedly crop up. Even when I traveled with Rebecca, in Vienna, I was mostly on my own; only at dinner time did we reconvene and venture out together. David and I did almost everything together. But once I resumed talking to strangers, so did he, and we met all kinds of people in our wanderings around the park. And by our second day driving, David was getting used to me suddenly pulling over and jumping out, camera in hand.

By Monday it was sunny and warm. We moved north to the Colter Bay campground, and took a hike past a couple of lakes and around a point. It was stunning. The first lake was grassy and muddy, and filled with ducks. On our first hike weíd been reasonably efficient, but this time I introduced David to the pleasures of watching birds, and our progress was very slow indeed, especially with only one pair of binoculars between us. Of course the birds gave us an excuse to slow down when we got winded, which we still did with regularity. The second lake was broad and open, and we watched a moose on the opposite shore as she emerged from the woods and plunged into the water. The last bit of the hike, around a point jutting into a third lake, was quiet and bright, the sunlight glinting off the snow on the

mountains across from us. Children played on the rocky lakeshores, laying out rocks to spell words and assembling them into piles that they left for others to wonder about days later. We watched orange-headed western tanagers in the trees, and gazed at an osprey nest on top of a tree while its occupant stared back at us from its high perch. Finally our desire for creature comforts got the best of us, though, and we made a dash back to get to the showers before they closed for the night.

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